Space Syntax and Walkability Analysis in Support of Urban Design Decisions
ABSTRACT: This research presents an application of the space syntax method to examine physical behavior in three urban neighborhoods – a compact downtown and two variations of sprawl development – in order to explore the link between environmental factors and physical activity. The environmental factors analyzed here include improved street connectivity, density, and mixed-use development. As a novel addition, this work also considered access to open spaces, parks, and trailheads, aspects unique to the study area. The first part of this research examined how compact urban areas, as compared to urban sprawl, influenced healthy behavior. The space syntax method was applied to explicate the morphological logic of the urban grid and quantify the built environment in relation to physical activity, including the street network characteristics of connectivity, integration, and depth. Second, this study addressed the comparative health and socio-cultural benefits of urban forms through measures of neighborhood completeness. This quantitative methodology was used to measure the level of density and amount of mixed-use in terms of walkability. As space syntax argues that more integrated streets are more likely to attract movement and visitors, the third part of this work evaluated the roles of various open spaces, parks, and trailheads within the mixed-use, dense development of a downtown, and how their respective locations might promote healthy behavior. Finally, this research concludes that increased residential density and retention of public open spaces of an existing single-use commercial downtown core, as well as easy access to parks and trailheads, could complement a walkable community design and suggest a healthy urban form. This work is relevant to existing urban neighborhoods and small urban communities looking to identify new development paradigms with regards to improved walkability and health promotive urban form.
KEYWORDS: Community Health, Connectivity, Mixed-use Development, Urban Density, Urban Form